Biosketches & CVs

More often than not, the sponsor will want you to include a CV or a biosketch (essentially a shortened CV) for you and other senior/key personnel included in your proposal. The formatting and page limit requirements for biosketches vary widely from sponsor to sponsor. For example, here is a summary of the requirements for three federal agencies:

The National Science Foundation limits biosketches to two pages and requires the following sections:

  • Professional Preparation (education);
  • Appointments (in reverse chronological order, beginning with the current);
  • Publications (up to five most closely related to the proposal and up to five other significant publications, whether or not related);
  • Synergistic Activities (a list of up to five examples that demonstrate the broader impact of your professional and scholarly activity); and
  • Collaborators & Other Affiliations, broken down by: (i) collaborators and co-editors, (ii) your graduate advisors and postdoctoral sponsors, and (iii) a list of all persons whom you have advised, or with whom you have had an association within the last five years as postgraduate-scholar sponsor. The total number of graduate students advised and postdoctoral scholars sponsored also must be identified.

The National Institutes of Health revised its biosketch form for all proposals submitted after January 25, 2010. This form includes boxes on the first page for entering your name and educational background. You are then allowed the rest of that page and three more pages for other information, summarized below (see sample that includes these instructions as its first page):

  • A. Personal Statement: This is a brief statement/description of why your experience and qualifications make you particularly well-suited for your role (e.g., PD/PI, mentor, participating faculty) in the project that is the subject of the application. This section was new to NIH biosketches in January 2010 and must be tailored to individual proposals. 

Beginning with applications submitted for the May 25, 2011 and subsequent receipt dates, the biosketch instructions will include a modification of the personal statement section to remind applicants that they can provide a description of personal issues that may have reduced productivity.  These revised instructions for the personal statement should appear in applications toward the end of March:

Personal statement: Briefly describe why your experience and qualifications make you particularly well-suited for your role (e.g., PD/PI, mentor) in the project that is the subject of the application. Within this section you may, if you choose, briefly describe factors such as family care responsibilities, illness, disability, and active duty military service that may have affected your scientific advancement or productivity. 

Providing information about personal issues is optional.  If applicants wish to provide such information they are encouraged to limit such descriptions to a few sentences

  • B. Positions and Honors: First, a list in chronological order of previous positions, concluding with the present position. Then list any honors, including present membership on any Federal Government public advisory committee.
  • C. Selected Peer-reviewed Publications: NIH encourages applicants to limit the list of selected peer-reviewed publications or manuscripts in press to no more than 15. Do not include manuscripts submitted or in preparation. You may choose to include selected publications based on recency, importance to the field, and/or relevance to the proposed research. When citing articles that fall under the Public Access Policy, were authored or co-authored by the applicant and arose from NIH support, provide the NIH Manuscript Submission reference number (e.g., NIHMS97531) or the PubMed Central (PMC) reference number (e.g., PMCID234567) for each article. If the PMCID is not yet available because the Journal submits articles directly to PMC on behalf of their authors, indicate 'PMC Journal - In Process.' A list of these Journals is posted at: Citations that are not covered by the Public Access Policy, but are publicly available in a free, online format may include URLs or PMCID numbers along with the full reference (note that copies of publicly available publications are not accepted as appendix material.
  • D. Research Support: List both selected ongoing and completed research projects for the past three years (Federal or non-Federally-supported). Begin with the projects that are most relevant to the research proposed in the application. Briefly indicate the overall goals of the projects and your responsibilities in the project. Do not include number of person months (your level of effort) or the amount of the award.

There are a few foundations who use biosketch forms that mimic the NIH form.

The U.S. Department of Education/Institute of Education Sciences in its latest program announcement did not mandate a form, but provided instructions that 'Applicants must provide Biographical Sketches for the principal investigator(s) and other key personnel. Each biosketch is limited to 5 pages and should include information sufficient to demonstrate that personnel possess training and expertise commensurate with their duties (e.g., publications, grants, relevant research experience) and have adequate time devoted to the project to carry out their duties. The fifth page of the curriculum vitae should list current and pending grants with the proportion of the individual's time allocated to each project.'

Obviously, content of a biosketch varies from sponsor to sponsor and ideally they should be tailored to a specific proposal. Our office can help you get your information onto the sponsor's required form.


last revised 2/22/2011; mbl